Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @kimberliallen. Kimberli Allen has worked in the virtual collaboration industry for more than a decade, first through WebEx Communications, then taking the leap into entrepreneurship building a thriving virtual business. Kimberli is a faculty member at American Management Association where she teaches “How to Present Online: A Skills Based Workshop” created by 1080 Groups’ Roger Courville. For more info, visit www.everythingwebinar.com
SmallBizLady: What exactly is a webinar?
Kimberli Allen: A webinar is an online seminar or web seminar, hence the name webinar. There are many terms often used interchangeably to describe a webinar such as online meeting, online training, virtual presentation, e-learning, etc. A live online educational presentation during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments is how Merriam Webster defines webinar. Many large and small businesses use webinars as a means of lead generation. There is an entire event architecture that can and should be built around the use of this type of media.
SmallBizLady: Are businesses actually able to monetize when implementing a webinar strategy?
Kimberli Allen: You bet! I have been working with small businesses and corporations for over 12 years. After implementing a webinar strategy into a business model, clients typically see an increase in their lead conversion rates by 10% and even higher. Webinars can add an additional revenue stream to any sized business. For example, one client I worked with in the legal field decided to add webinars to their current CEU offering. Not only can their clients gain CEUs via classroom and phone, but now they can obtain CEUs via webinar as well.
SmallBizLady: Can I use my current content to present online?
Kimberli Allen: Yes and no. Most clients present amazing content. However, the content is currently formatted for the in-person presentation environment. Your content will likely need to be reformatted and even repurposed so it is suitable for the virtual environment. Remember, we have different “body language” in the virtual environment so we need to learn to engage our audiences differently.
SmallBizLady: Is there a particular structure you use for virtual presentations?
Kimberli Allen: Yes. I have created a Virtual Presentation Design Template that provides a solid foundation for most virtual presentations. Depending upon the needs of your particular audience, you may need to make slight tweaks here and there. I have used this format successfully for many years with thousands of individuals and businesses. You will find the Virtual Presentation Design Template on our website.
SmallBizLady: What are the top four categories one should focus on when building a virtual presentation?
Kimberli Allen: It is difficult to pare this down to just four but I would start your focus here:
Structure – as we spoke about just moments ago, you must structure your presentation appropriately for the virtual environment. No more starting your presentation with an agenda!
Content – your content should be very engaging and relevant to your topic. For example, I would not use an image of a flying squirrel when trying to describe to your virtual audience the speed in which computers process information. Images in general, however, are fantastic. Remember you are telling a story with every presentation, even if it is very technical. Thinking of your Power Point as a story board is a good analogy.
Voice – voice is one of the most powerful tools you can fine tune for the virtual environment. We cannot necessarily change our voices but we can learn to use our voice to engage our audience by paying close attention to details such as pace, tone, inflection, articulation and enthusiasm.
Tools of Engagement – no matter which virtual collaboration platform you are using such as Citrix GoToMeeting, WebEx Event Center, On24, Omnovia, Adobe (and there are many more) they all offer various tools such as chat, Q&A, raise and lower hand icon, emoticons and attention meters. Reaching out to your virtual audience and engaging them will greatly assist you in keeping their attention.
SmallBizLady: What are the main issues facing virtual presenters today?
Kimberli Allen: Engaging an audience, gauging an audience, learning to interact so your presentation is interactive instead of passive and also repurposing your content – you don’t want to just convert whitepapers into webinars.
SmallBizLady: What are some tips you can share about using your voice in the virtual environment?
Kimberli Allen: Learn your unique speaker style, everyone has one.
Consider the “Power of the Pause” and pay attention to tone, inflection and volume (no monotone speakers please!)
SmallBizLady: What are tools of engagement?
Kimberli Allen: Depending upon your virtual collaboration platform:
- *Raise hand
- *visuals properly paired with your talk tracks
SmallBizLady: What are the most important things to think about when planning a webinar or online training?
Kimberli Allen: Great question! As you begin your planning process you must consider your end goal. Is it lead generation, a new revenue stream, education or simply information sharing? Once you have defined your end goal, your next step is to choose your Go Live date. Even if your Go Live date is 4-8 weeks out that, will give you firm ground to stand on to begin your marketing. Begin with the end in mind, I am sure we have all heard this term said to be coined by Stephen Covey.
SmallBizLady: So I have my conent and my go live date chosen, what’s next?
Kimberli Allen: Having content ready and go live date chosen show you are committed. The next step is to clearly define your target market, if you have not already done so. Then you will need to choose a title for your webinar or online event. You may not think a title is important but it is! You only have one shot in your email subject line or squeeze page and a fraction of a second for your target audience to decide whether or not click. If you expect to monetize from your event you should ultimately start “dripping” into your defined target market 2-4 weeks prior to your Go Live date.
SmallBizLady: It clearly it takes a team to pull off these types of events especially if they are large scale, what are the roles various people may play?
Kimberli Allen: Depending upon your chosen platform you will have a host or producer. This individual usually configures your virtual rooms and schedules such things as dry runs, tech checks and dress rehearsals. He or she will be responsible for monitoring the functionality of the platform as well. You may have a moderator that will introduce your presenter and will likely monitor your live Q&A. You should also consider a Q&A monitor a chat monitor and a polling coordinator. Again it all depends upon the chosen platform and which tools you will be using to engage your audience.
SmallBizLady: I understand follow up and lead nurturing are all part of the process. Can you provide more specific details here?
Kimberli Allen: Correct! Follow up and lead nurturing programs are essential to your virtual program success. A “thank you for attending” or “sorry we missed you” are emails that should be scheduled immediately following your event. They should include a link to the recording of the event if appropriate. This helps to nurture the relationship and adds just one more touch to help lead toward the potential client trusting you and what you offer and it leads to establishing credibility as well.
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